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Council accepts report that salary is fair Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Sep 24 2011 12:00 PM

Chula Vista City Council members accepted a report from an ad hoc committee stating that city executives are paid fair and reasonable salaries.

After evaluating 13 senior positions occupied by 12 individuals and comparing them against 33 comparable cities including Carlsbad, San Bernardino and Long Beach as well as municipal agencies, the committee found that ultimately, all city of Chula Vista executives are paid fairly and reasonably.

"There was an awful lot of data that we ended up evaluating," said Bill Hall, committee chair, during Tuesday's council meeting. "The bottom line is ... the conclusion of the committee was that compensation for each position was fair and reasonable (based on their range of responsibilities)."

Committee member and pastor Richard Schmidt said there was healthy skepticism to ensure the thoroughness of the results.

Hall said the committee found that similar private sector to public sector comparisons for Chula Vista positions, with the exception of one, was below the salary range when taking in the full scope of the job.

"I will tell you that in my own mind, generally the city to city comparisons were the most valid as far as determining the proper range for the positions," Hall said. "However, when we looked at private sector databases and administrative assistant positions ... it's hard to qualify and quantify the range of qualifications."

Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda said the report should have been based on a market-based analysis.

"Comparing public sector executives to private sector executives is not possible to do," he said. "There are too many varying factors with respect to each category to employment - analytically it's not reliable to do that."

President of the Chula Vista Taxpayer's Association Larry Breitfelder said it's important to keep the matter of executive salaries in perspective.

"We should keep in mind that the private sector is traditionally paid more because government services tend to be more secure and they have very good retirement," he said.

Hall used Director of Recreation Buck Martin as an example.

"He's above the percentile range and rank of all the other positions we evaluated, where we looked at the scope of responsibility ... and tried to do a deliberate comparison," he said.

Martin is nearly $13,000 over the average for all people in the 33 cities who were evaluated and considered in comparison, but was found to be paid appropriately considering his scope of work and responsibilities.

"You're getting folks with excellent levels of performance history and tremendous experience and you're getting them at a lesser compensation than at almost any other municipality in the region," Hall said.

Chula Vista resident Steven Pavka said he's happy with the results and suggested the city look into cutting costs in other areas.

"Maybe you should get into cost recovery for anything you do to the public or fees," he said.

He recalled the council's recent decision to raise ambulance service fees, raising the maximum charge for emergency transportation to a hospital to $1,341, an increase of $419.

"I'm a simple little person -I've lived in this town for over 30 years," he said. "Maybe you can check into these things."

Castaneda said he is frustrated because he wanted the report to be finished before the budget was due.

"We are now at a phase as far as our fiscal calendar where the opportunity has come and gone to do anything," he said. "I believe they (the committee) did what they were asked to do and I appreciate their report but I'm not completely convinced that we have the right answer to that question."

Council directed the committee in February to find out if the top city executives were being paid appropriate salaries - a suggestion proposed by Deputy Mayor Rudy Ramirez.

The group looked at individual rŽsumŽs and compared each individual's salary with others working in private and commercial sector cities with comparable populations, budgets, facilities, number of people supervised and scope of responsibilities.

The committee received support from city staff throughout the process, including the city manager's office, human resources department, city attorney's office and the city clerk.

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said that in the last four and a half years, city staff has had a constant request to do more with less.

"...The fact is that you have, through your analysis of the data, concluded that our staff compensation may not be what we like it to be, but they keep coming back to work every day," Cox said.

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